Chinese antimony prices poised to hold firm after gains


China’s antimony market is widely expected to hold steady in a narrow range in the near-term, after pushing higher in the past month, as supply shortages may offset flat consumer demand.

Prices for 99.85pc grade antimony metal were assessed higher by 1,000 yuan/t ($149/t) from 5 July to Yn83,000-84,000/t ex-works on 7 July, with the export range for 99.65pc grade metal rising by $200/t to $13,300-13,600/t over the same period.

Metal producers are maintaining low run rates because of limited availability for concentrate feedstock. They are being cautious about selling too much inventory at the current price, in anticipation of a further rise in prices if demand from the solar industry increases and from the flame retardant industry if it recovers from the global economic slowdown.

“We are not eager to sell below Yn84,000/t for 99.85pc grade metal as we cannot replenish cheaper concentrate feedstock now,” a metal smelter in the main production hub of Lengshuijiang city told Argus. “The current situation is a bit tricky as it is not easy to find metal, but it is not easy to sell metal either,” a second metal producer in Lengshuijiang said.

Key antimony producer Hsikwangshan Twinkling Star is set to suspend its blast furnaces on any day during 10-15 July because of a shortage in concentrate feedstock supplies, a company source told Argus. The firm previously suspended its blast furnace for more than a month from late May because of the same reason.

Hsikwangshan, with 40,000 t/yr of capacity for antimony products, produced 24,000t last year, down from 26,000t in 2020 and 28,000t in 2019. Its output in 2022 is expected to fall as a result of depleting mine resources, as well as reduced concentrate shipments from supplying countries outside China.

China imported 9,888t of antimony concentrate during January-May this year, down by 44pc from the same period of 2021, according to Chinese customs data. Shipments were 2,307t in May, up from 988t in April but down from 4,981t a year earlier. Domestic antimony metal output reached 6,015t in May, down from 6,897t a year earlier and from 7,204t in April, data from the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association show.

China’s total metal output rose to 30,965t during January-May, up from 27,459t in the same period last year. But the slight increase in supplies has not weighed on the market as demand from the solar industry has doubled, according to market participants. Total annual antimony demand from the solar industry is expected to grow to 19,000-20,000t in 2022 from around 10,000 t/yr in previous years. Higher consumption of 35,000 t/yr is also possible if newly installed capacity in the solar industry grow largely by 2025, said market participants.

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